The Effect of Music on Sleeping Children

A good night’s sleep can make the difference between a healthy child and one suffering the effects of sleep deprivation. In a poll taken by the National Sleep Foundation, 76 percent of parents indicated they would change something about their children’s sleep. Parents of waking toddlers and preschoolers lose approximately 88 minutes of sleep each week as well. Music can have a positive effect on a child’s brain, thus inducing a deeper state of rest.


Individuals alternate between rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (N-REM) sleep. REM is the stage when the eyes move around quickly. During this phase the body is fairly still and dreams often occur. N-REM is a segment of deep sleep. Children cycle between light and deep sleep and will more often awaken during the REM cycle. Music can help children transition easily into sleep and consequently enhance deep sleep throughout the night.


Music, like any sound, causes the inner ear to vibrate. Vibrations are transformed into electrical impulses and relayed to a small area of the brain that regulates heart rate. As children continue listening to soothing music, their heart and respiration rates lower. This creates mental relaxation. The body enters a state of deep calmness. With repeated use of soothing music, children learn to associate sleepiness with the music. The act of falling asleep occurs quickly, and the stimulus/response pattern deepens.


Helene Byrne, publisher of the album, “Tender Lullabies: Soothing Classic Piano Melodies,” states that melodies are best played at resting heart rate tempo, 60 beats per minute 2. This naturally slows heart and respiration rates, reduces stress and puts babies and young children to sleep within just minutes. Children should not listen to lively music such as hip-hop. This overstimulates the brain and has a negative effect on sleep patterns.


Children are naturally bombarded by noise pollution in the home. This is a fact of modern technology. Some children can’t sleep if there is too much noise. Others have difficulty sleeping if there is not enough noise. Music provides a calming solution. Soothing melodies will help the child separate himself from the various household sounds as his brainwaves gradually slow. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children who have television sets in their bedrooms get less sleep. They are in the lower 25th percentile of sleep time.


A Hungarian study, published in the "Journal of Advanced Nursing" in 2008, investigated the effects of music on sleep quality in young participants with poor sleep 1. Researchers used a three-group design. Participants listened for 45 minutes to relaxing, classical music or an audio book. A third group received no intervention. Sleep quality was measured before the study and weekly thereafter using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. The study concluded that relaxing classical music was an effective intervention in reducing sleep problems.